The influence of Afro-Latinidad in the workplace

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Panelists (from left to right) Pauline Batista, Justis Lopez, Dr.Yvette Marta, and Justin Monell having an "intimate talk" on what it means to be in the latino community both professionally and personally. (The Daily Campus)

Panelists (from left to right) Pauline Batista, Justis Lopez, Dr.Yvette Marta, and Justin Monell having an “intimate talk” on what it means to be in the latino community both professionally and personally. (The Daily Campus)

While serving light refreshments, the Afro-Latinx Board held a panel in the Student Union where four professionals were prompted about how their Afro-Latinidad heritage has influenced them both personally and professionally.

The panelists were Pauline Batista, Justis Lopez, Yvette Martas and Justin Monell. The event was moderated by fourth-semester allied health sciences major and Afro-Latinx Outreach Coordinator Kyle Rodriguez.

The discussion began with the panelists being asked about their professions and then how they originally heard about the term, “Afro-Latinx,” and how it made them feel. Batista is a doctoral student and filmmaker who first heard the term when she moved to the United States from Brazil and was asked what her ethnicity was. Lopez, an educator and consultant, was exposed to the term when he was teaching in the Bronx. Martas, an OB-GYN and adjunct professor currently teaching a course on women’s health, discussed how the term helped her feel proud of her identity and a part of a movement bigger than herself. Monell works in higher education and discussed how the term gave him a sense of self-discovery and better helped him understand his own family.

“It has freed me up to feel like I’m a part of a much bigger picture…as opposed to being a Puerto Rican doctor from the South Bronx. I’m now an Afro-Latina and that’s a much bigger group so I don’t feel alone. I feel that many women share my feelings and experiences and so I think that captures it. I don’t feel isolated or invisible,” Martas said.

Further in the discussion, the panelists were asked how the label of “Afro-Latinx” has shaped them and why the label itself is important. Some responses included how the term has helped them feel like they’re no longer invisible or how it has allowed them to view history through a different lens that isn’t normally discussed. Lopez mentioned that because of his Afro-Latinx identity, he’s chosen to challenge the status quo as a social studies teacher and stray from teaching a eurocentric course. He’s gone as far to allow students to teach his class so that they have a chance to explore their own identities, which is something he didn’t experience as a student.

Batista mentioned that the label is important so that a group of people aren’t just lumped into one category. Meanwhile Martas pointed out that we tend to learn an incomplete history and everyone is just trying to correct that and one way of doing that is with proper labels.

While the speakers also discussed how they advocate for themselves in the workplace or what advice they would give to anybody who may want to claim the Afro-Latinx identity as their own, Rodriguez also asked a couple of simpler questions. He asked the panelists about their favorite foods and colors simply because he wanted to introduce a human aspect to the discussion. Rodriguez wanted the audience to know that the speakers were like anybody else. In fact, this helped students feel more comfortable during the post-discussion Q&A.

“One of the panelists is actually an OB-GYN and she’s Afro-Latina and that’s exactly what I want to do,” Kimberly Diaz, a sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology major, said. “Seeing someone else with the same background as me…has given me inspiration to keep doing what I do even though it’s hard.”

One of the biggest themes throughout the discussion was to be able to stand up for your identity and educating yourself and others to create a better sense of understanding. Without this, there won’t be much progress or change in our communities.

Before the event ended, Martas offered one last piece of advice:

“If anyone says you can’t, you say ‘Oh yeah?’ and you keep on going,” Martas said.


Brandon Barzola is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brandon.barzola@uconn.edu.

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